The King Of Fighters Returns
King of Fighters XII was a poorly received installment of the King of Fighters franchise due to its small roster, scant selection of modes to choose from, and quite a few glaring graphical problems. Its follow-up, King of Fighters XIII, on the other hand, addresses every single issue fans had with King of Fighters XII perfectly. Unfortunately, a few new issues have cropped up to take their place. Overall, though, King of Fighters XIII is a magnificent installment of the King of Fighters series that gives the fans exactly what they wanted.
If you are new to the KOF series, let me run it down for you. KOF plays more like a slow, methodical fighting game like Street Fighter than a quick and dirty combo game like Marvel vs. Capcom. Gameplay is based around strong fundamentals, jump-ins and links, and resource management. Each character has a light and hard kick and punch, but none of these moves normally cancel into each other. Combining these with your command normals, special moves, super moves, and more is what wins you the game. It’s three-on-three, with each character fighting one at a time, and the winner of each match recovering a small amount of life. The last team standing wins.
New to KOF XIII is the drive gauge. In addition to your normal super meter, the drive gauge can fill up to two levels over the course of a match. You may spend a level to cancel one special move into another, essentially allowing you to break the normal rules of super move canceling. You can also activate Hyperdrive Mode, which causes your drive bar to slowly deplete but greatly reduces the cost of drive cancels, as well as the new ultra powerful “Neo Max” move that normally costs all of your super meter and drive meter combined. While in Hyperdrive Mode, control becomes less like KOF and more like Blazblue or Marvel. You’re able to chain almost anything in your arsenal and string together combos that take off most—or even all—of a character’s life bar.
Also new to the game are Street Fighter-esque EX moves, which cost super meter but add power and versatility to your normal special moves. Also, they add yet another step in the normal, special, super move chain progression, so your combos end up becoming even more ludicrous. Every other system in the game has shown up in some previous KOF. You can still run, jump, super jump, hop, super hop, guard cancel roll, guard push, guard cancel attack, and much more.
If you’ve already played the arcade version of KOF XIII, nothing in the past few paragraphs should be new to you; the console port is totally faithful to the arcade in terms of basic game systems. Yes, there are a few balance changes, but the core gameplay remains unchanged. The only thing SNK and Atlus did was add more on top of the arcade version. The console version includes additional characters like Saiki and Billy Zane, as well as upcoming DLC characters such as Mr. Karate and Iori 98. Oh, and yes, Mai Shiranui is back in this one. So if you have been craving some animated breast sprites, Atlus has you covered.
Now, one of the biggest complaints about KOF XII was that here weren’t many modes aside from the standard Arcade, Versus, and Training modes. This is not the case in KOF XIII. In addition to the three modes already mentioned, there is a Story mode, which has some really cool anime art to go along with it, a Replay mode that lets you analyze the matches of you and others, a gallery which lets you see art and movies, a Time Trial mode, Survival mode, Mission mode, Color Customization mode, special 1v1 battles, and even a tutorial.
I firmly believe that any good fighting game should have a good tutorial. KOF XIII may not have a good tutorial per se , but it certainly does more than many other games. The tutorial will walk you through basic controls and the properties of the many moves in the game, such as EX moves and Neo Max moves. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much to describe the combo system, and it doesn’t teach you basic things like defense or mix-ups in the slightest. Normally, when you go forward into combo training, you first check out the mission mode for the character you want to learn, but the mission mode starts you off with pretty finicky links and complex combos right off the bat. So mission mode is not newbie friendly, but I have to give the developers some points for at least trying.
Having a full online suite is necessary for fighting games in this age of internet enabled consoles, and KOF XIII obliges with mixed results. The netcode isn’t bad all the time, but it’s certainly inconsistent. The lag you’ll experience at the beginning of a match won’t necessarily be the same as the lag you experience in the middle of a match. Considering how strict the timing is for many combos in KOF XIII, this makes online play an entirely different experience, and a frustrating one at that. In addition, matches in KOF XIII start with a weird timing. The announcer says “Start!” but then your life bars fill while you’re still unable to move, causing false starts and dropped inputs. The extra latency at the beginning of online matches makes this especially weird. Overall, online mode is going to keep the game alive, but I wouldn’t call it one of the best online modes out there. Honestly, considering that the game is made with sprites, one would wonder why Atlus just didn’t hop on the GGPO train, like everyone else seems to be doing.
Unfortunately, the graphics didn’t get that much better either. There are the same strange pixelated explosions and wonky character color filters that annoyed people in KOF XII. In fact, I’d go so far as to wager that they are even more prevalent in the hit effects in this game. The characters still animate smoothly, but the stages are still as uninspired as ever. Still, the new effects for supers and Neo Max moves are really impressive, and since combos can be so fast, wild, and flashy, you barely even notice half the graphical problems. I suppose if you can’t fix the ugly, you just hide it with makeup.
Overall, King of Fighters XIII is a very fun game to play. It has a lot of characters, an open combo system, and plenty of modes to keep you satisfied online or off. It certainly deserves to be checked out, but I have a sneaking suspicion it will be overshadowed by other big titles releasing around the same time, such as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, or a little down the road with the soon-to-be-released Street Fighter X Tekken and SoulCalibur V. It’s a great game in its own right that should please every KOF fan out there, and I’d even wager that it will have its own spot at EVO next year. But will KOF XIII be the next ten-year fighting game out there? Probably not.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.3 Graphics
The explosion effects still look rather grainy and pixelated, but the sprites move smoothly. 4.4 Control
Combo link timing is a little finicky, but overall the game controls like a dream. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is kind of forgettable, but Terry Bogard’s famous quips are still present. 4.2 Play Value
Whether you are a KOF fan or not, it will keep you playing for a while. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|